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Two steps forward, one step back: the Nepal peace process

The enduring dominance of established elites and the historic discrimination of marginalised communities acted as key drivers to sustain Nepal’s civil war from 1996 to 2006.

In response, how to support greater inclusion has been central to efforts to build peace. Yet it has proved challenging to push forward the inclusion agenda in Nepal’s complex post-war social and political landscape.

Inclusive change has been variously advocated, incited, resisted and negotiated amongst social and political groups – elite and non-elite - for decades and in multiple forms

Deepak Thapa and Alexander Ramsbotham, Accord 26 issue editors

In reviewing Nepal’s peace process, this 26th edition in our Accord series takes a special focus on the function of power on inclusion, and the role of the peace process as a means to facilitate transition from negative to positive peace, or from horizontal (elite) to vertical (societal) inclusion.

Since Nepal’s 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), constitutional federalism has been a central focus of efforts to reconfigure power and representation. But with constituencies from across Nepal’s political spectrum showing little willingness to compromise, attempts to embed inclusion in formal political structures have faced tough challenges.

Many Nepalis have seen the federal project as zero-sum. Janajati and Madhesi activists felt that anything less achieving their full aspirations would represent total failure. On the other side, the conservative Khas Arya political elite and intellectuals believed that federalism would undermine national unity and interests 

Krishna Khanal, Accord 26 author and Professor of Political Science at Tribhuvan University (1979-2010) 

Episodic violence has gripped parts of the country since the CPA, often to protest unfulfilled promises of inclusion by political actors. Many perceive the 2015 Constitution as having failed to fulfil the aspirations of many marginalised groups for greater participation and rights. And victims of violence committed by prominent political actors are yet to see accountability or justice. Although there have been significant instances of social and political progress in Nepal over the past decade, social justice remains a long way off for many Nepalis outside the prevailing elite.

Despite its apparent formal legitimacy, the new constitution needs to be amended to respect the voices of identity and inclusion – in order to broaden that legitimacy and consolidate peace for all Nepalis

Krishna Hachhethu, Accord 26 author and Professor of Political Science at Tribhuvan University

The publication is divided into three main sections. The first looks at the peace process, which began in the immediate aftermath of the success of the second People’s Movement in April 2006. A second section explores the political process, charting the rise of identity-based political groups, the role of the 2008 and 2013 Constituent Assemblies and commitments to inclusion in the 2007 and 2015 Constitutions. A third section on inclusion explores how important elements of a more inclusive polity and society have been secured since the CPA, the important role Nepal’s vibrant social movements have played in this, and the backlash against inclusion that has gathered momentum as the peace process has progressed.




This publication is an output of the Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP) – a four-year project funded by the by the Department for International Development (DFID) - to better understand how political settlements are reconfigured in conflict and peace processes, and how forms of ‘horizontal’ elite inclusion can be transformed into more ‘vertical’ forms of societal inclusion. As part of this project, Conciliation Resources has also produced an Accord Spotlight on Nepal -  Peace, Power and Inclusive Change in Nepal.